Big-budget Ben Affleck movie ‘Hypnotic’ continues its curious run at EFM as US release plans emerge

Exclusive: Coming to this week’s EFM, the Ben Affleck action-thriller hypnotic Hardly was on anyone’s radar. However, the movie was quietly one of the market’s X-factors. It’s rare, after all, for a finished film with a big-budget, A-list talent and director to still be without a US distributor.

But the Robert Rodriguez-directed project, which has shot back to 2021, has been one of the more intriguing and challenging journeys for a big-budget independent film package in recent years.

First announced at AFM 2019, the $65M project was the flagship package for Mark Gill’s ambitious new mini-studio Solstice, which was to handle domestic releases. Oscar winner Affleck will play a detective investigating a mystery involving his missing daughter and a secret government program. Pedigree also comes from former Warner Bros. exec Jeff Robinov who is on board as a producer.

cursed city And Alita: Battle Angel Director Rodriguez described the project as “a Hitchcock thriller on steroids”…it’s that kind of movie. Lots of twists and turns. Very exciting.. This is one of my favorite stories. I started writing it back in 2002. So it’s one that I’ve wanted to do for the longest time.” teamed up on the script with Kong: Skull Island And Godzilla Author Max Borenstein.

International buyers jumped on the project, spending a large part of its budget. Peacock, we can reveal, jumped in, committing eight figures in exchange for domestic pay TV rights. The vibes were good.

“There was a big show at AFM,” recalls one shopper. “Everyone bid hard and it attracted the most important international distributors in the market.”

Joining the cast were Alice Braga, William Fichter, JD Pardo, Kelly Fry and Jeff Fahey.

But fast forward three and a half years before EFM hypnotic There was still no domestic distributor or a release date. Not a single U.S. buyer bit, and the film was in post until late 2021.

The international buyers of the movie were naturally upset. They were told when first put together that the film would have at least a 2,000-screen release in the U.S. “They better get a 2,000-screen commitment or they’ll lose all their deals,” a veteran movie buyer told me.

Those buyers have already seen the film delayed by the pandemic, shut down three different times and involved in an insurance lawsuit. They saw its main financier and US distributor, Solstice, explode at the time hypnotic It finally goes into production in late 2021. Then the production still had to contend with a raft of Covid protocols. Just getting this movie in camera was a feat (a miracle or a feat, depending on your point of view).

Rodriguez hasn’t spoken much since the film’s production, but he described it as a “family affair” when it began filming: “My son is now my full-time composer. My other son is my co-writer/producer. My daughter is storyboarding. .My other son is doing the animatics, because he’s using his game engine that he designed the sets for heroes with. And then my other son edits with me. So it’s a family affair.”

In 2022, the director started filming the next installment Spy Kids franchise for Netflix, which means his attention will inevitably need to turn elsewhere.

what will happen hypnoticAre many of the film’s supporters worried?

In recent months, buyers were told that WME would handle in-house sales of the film at Independent EFM. Then it changed more recently to ‘advisors’, including former Solstice and AGC executive Crystal Bourbeau (Bourbeau, Gill and Rodriguez declined to comment for this piece). The film will get its first buyer screening in Berlin on February 17 where international distributors can finally see what they will buy and potential domestic buyers can be attracted.

But behind the scenes, when the financiers got wind that we were running a story about the film’s journey, anxiety seemed to build. “There’s a plan”, we were told in a PR flurry. “It’s coming together, just hold on”.

Late last Thursday, an email was sent to international buyers saying the film’s US buyer had finally been found: Ketchup Entertainment.

Ketchup is a boutique financier-distributor whose last stateside release was a family film in 2019. Captain Sabertooth and the Magic Diamond. No picture has been released hypnoticIts budget or screen commitment. Company CEO Gareth West was involved in setting up financing for Solstice Studios and is an executive producer. hypnotic Along with other financiers like Ingenius Media.

It was not the special sauce that international buyers were expecting.

Ketchup plans to “release the film in coordination with former Solstice executives” across at least 2,000 screens this summer.

What has been the reaction among buyers? “We were concerned about this movie being on the shelf for so long, and this did nothing to alleviate that concern,” one told us. “I have spoken to at least one major buyer who is looking to get out of their contract. I hope it will not be dumped by the end of August,” they added.

Another simply replied: “A $70 million Ben Affleck and Robert Rodriguez action film led by Ketchup? Hmmm.”

Hopefully, everyone is pleasantly surprised come Friday (and summer releases). But there may be a plot twist or two.

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